Press Article

Kojiro Umezaki, composer and shakuhachi virtuoso, releases (Cycles), a new album featuring original compositions. "A virtuosic, deeply expressive shakuhachi player and composer" - New York Times April 2, 2014 In a Circle Records proudly announces the release of (Cycles), the latest album from electro-acoustic music composer and shakuhachi virtuoso, Kojiro Umezaki. (Cycles) highlights and expands Mr. Umezaki’s continued exploration of transformative music that seamlessly integrates classical composition, traditional Japanese musical influences, electronics and improvisation. Featuring both original and traditional works, (Cycles) thoughtfully blend the shakuhachi, percussion, electronics, strings and other world music instruments in a diverse compositional mix that is quietly beautiful, emotionally evocative and defies traditional musical classification. (Cycles) will be available in digital and CD form on April 15th through iTunes, Amazon MP3, Spotify and other major digital outlets. The physical CD will be available in-store and at online retail outlets. The album is currently available for pre-order at iTunes or Mr. Umezaki’s website. (Cycles) includes five original compositions written by Mr. Umezaki over the last 5 years, and one traditional Japanese folk song, performed by Mr. Umezaki on shakuhachi, the vertical Japanese bamboo flute. The album features musical collaborations with Joseph Gramley, Dong-Won Kim, Faraz Minooei, and Brooklyn Rider. A constant theme of (Cycles) is the compositional focus on meaningfully connecting disparate cultures, musical styles and events through a unique borderless soundscape marrying traditional instrumentation with electronics. (Cycles) opens with (Cycles) America, which exemplifies Mr. Umezaki’s unique compositional approach. The piece reflects on how the optimism and uniqueness in America ebbs and flows over the course of time. This is accomplished by seamlessly blending a recording of Walt Whitman reciting his late period work “America,” derivations from the Largo movement from Dvořák’s From the New World Symphony (Dvořák arrived in New York in 1892, the year “America” was published in Leaves of Grass), and electronically-enhanced sounds of incoming, crashing and receding waves from the American oceans, all framing the vibraphone’s melodic counterpoint. 108 was inspired by the recurring importance of that number throughout “Silk Road” cultures, from the number of Hindu deities, sins in Tibetan Buddism, the Japanese temple bells ringing in the new year, and others. The piece is a unique “comprovisation” (featuring shakuhachi, santur, janggo and manjira) structured around the old shichijyunikou calendar of 72 events grouped into 24 sections and further organized by the 12 months in a year (the sum of which is 108). This work also plays homage to the 108 pulses in the opening dan (section) of the Edo-period classic work "Rokudan no Shirabe" attributed to Yatsuhashi Kengyo. Lullaby from Itsuki is Mr. Umezaki’s solo interpretation of a Japanese folk song beautifully portraying the lament of a young nursemaid sent away to be employed by another family, grateful for her new life but unable to hold back thoughts of her own family during the o-bon season when people return to their ancestral homes. “…seasons continue, as if none of this ever happened…” is Mr. Umezaki’s composition for shakuhachi and electronics is a musical elegy to the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. This composition was inspired by “Kogarashi,” a historic solo shakuhachi work by Nakao Tozan, which Tozan composed in response to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1932. This evocative piece further exemplifies Mr. Umezaki’s insightful connections of events over time. Central to For Zero (a composition for vibraphone, percussion and electronics) is the process of accumulation and its subsequent reversal, perhaps reflecting the cycle of life for all beings. The rhythmical and melodic elements build gradually until eventually all feed into an electronically sustained accumulation of sound. The piece then pivots, and the process reverses in a slightly different context, each new note subtracting itself from the amassed sonic material until none remains. (Cycles) closes with (Cycles) what falls must rise, which unites Mr. Umezaki with Brooklyn Rider, the adventurous genre-blending string quartet. Mr. Umezaki explains: “If enlightenment characterizes the sacred musics and their derivations in secular forms at one end of Eurasia, transcendence often does at the other. Quotations from "Sagariha"–a principal work in the Nezasa-ha shakuhachi repertoire (often translated as "Falling Leaves")–serves as a vehicle into the descending quadrants of the cycle, while modes and rhythms lying somewhere between the foreign and familiar emerge from depths to form ascending counterparts, reaching towards and concluding back again at the top, ready for the inevitable next iteration.” Originally released by Brooklyn Rider on their 2010 album Dominant Curve, the version on (Cycles) starts/ends at a different point in the structure of the piece, illuminating another aspect of the album’s title. About Kojiro Umezaki: Born to a Japanese father and Danish mother, Kojiro Umezaki grew up in Tokyo and is a performer of the shakuhachi, a composer of electro-acoustic works, and a technologist with interests in developing portable and mobile interactive music systems for live performance. He performs regularly with the Grammy-nominated Silk Road Ensemble with whom he appears on the recordings Beyond the Horizon (Sony BMG, 2005), New Impossibilities (Sony BMG, 2007), Off the Map (World Village, 2009), and A Playlist Without Borders (Sony Masterworks, 2013). Other notable recordings of his work have been released on Brooklyn Rider's Dominant Curve (In A Circle, 2010); Yo-Yo Ma's Appassionato (Sony BMG, 2007) and Songs of Joy and Peace (Sony BMG, 2008); Beat in Fractions' Beat Infraction (Healthy Boys, 2007); and The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan (Smithsonian Folkways, 2002). Recent commissioned compositions and producer credits include those for Brooklyn Rider (2009), Joseph Gramley (2009, 2010), Huun Huur Tu (Ancestors Call, 2010), and the Silk Road Ensemble (2012). As Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine, he is a core faculty member of the Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology (ICIT) group where his research focuses on forms of hybrid music at the intersection of tradition and technology and intercultural musical practices across the historic Silk Road regions and beyond. "He is a brilliant artist who improvises, composes and works with electronic media. He's both an unbelievable musician, performer, as well as a presenter, teacher and creator." - Yo-Yo Ma "...simply mesmerizing." - World Music Central "A showy and spectacular master of the shakuhachi" - Los Angeles Times "Umezaki brings the shakuhachi into today's music." - All Music Guide (Cycles) Track Listing (ICR - 007) 1. (Cycles) America (3'54") Joseph Gramley: vibraphone and percussion Kojiro Umezaki: electronics 2. 108: for shakuhachi, janggo, santur, and manjira (12'06") Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi and manjira Dong-Won Kim: janggo Faraz Minooei: santur 3. Lullaby from Itsuki (五木の子守唄) (3'08") Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi 4. "…seasons continue, as if none of this ever happened…" (9'26") Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi and electronics 5. For Zero (5'43") Joseph Gramley: vibraphone and percussion Kojiro Umezaki: electronics 6. (Cycles) what falls must rise (alternate version) (12'59") Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi and electronics Brooklyn Rider: Johnny Gandelsman & Colin Jacobsen - violins, Nicholas Cords - viola, Eric Jacobsen – cello Click here for more information about (Cycles) Upcoming Performance Dates April 14, 2014: 8 p.m. The Stone. New York, NY. April 23 – 24, 2014: Contemporary Arts Center, UC Irvine. Irvine, CA. April 25, 2014: Winifred Smith Hall, UC Irvine. Irvine, CA. May 20, 2014: Huntington Library. Los Angeles, CA. June 18, 2014: Huntington Library. Los Angeles, CA. Click here for complete performance dates and details For further information and to request digital files or CD for review please contact Johnny Gandelsman at info@inacirclerecords.com or (646) 645-6694.


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